Tag Archive for 'owens lake'

1863 Indian Massacre Site Uncovered in California

Photo retrieved from: www.newser.com

“Archaeologists say they’ve stumbled upon a grim page in American history: the site of the 1863 Owens Lake massacre. The Los Angeles Times provides a history lesson: The Paiute Indians occupied land some 200 miles north of LA that proved desirable to an influx of ranchers in the mid 1800s. The Owens Valley Indian War broke out in 1861, but a seminal moment occurred on March 19, 1863: Settlers and soldiers battled with the Paiutes, who tried to flee their attackers by swimming into the lake, but were thwarted by a strong wind; nearly three dozen of them drowned or were shot. The tale of that day remains, but the exact location was lost.

That’s in part because officials diverted the Owens River in 1913 in order to feed LA’s water needs, reports Grist; by the middle of the next decade, Owens Lake was no more. But heavy winds and rains in 2009 may have helped return bullets, buttons, and Native American artifacts to the surface; Los Angeles Department of Water and Power archaeologists found them during a survey last year. But the discovery is spurring a small controversy: The dry lake bed fuels toxic dust storms, and DWP has been charged with mitigating that with shallow flooding—at what is now thought to be the massacre site.”

Read more: Newser


Suffocating The Desert: L.A.’s Need for Water Hurts Others

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“The skin of the desert has been peeled away. It is aloft, and it chokes those of us who breathe here. Each scrape from each stray plow or dozer, each square foot of exposed lakebed with the water siphoned off, each section of desert deemed to be more useful as a blank square mile ends up as dust in the air. It hangs in our skies. It collects in our lungs. It kills us by increment, and someone else benefits.

My life has been shortened by living here. I have been sick. For the past eight months I have mostly woken in coughing fits. My abdominal muscles ache from it. My body heals itself as best it can, but the slightest cold, the slightest cloud of vapor from a gas pump that would cause a short moment of choking before I moved here, and I’m off again for weeks. It doesn’t take much dust. One day in a month, perhaps, of the blue sky replaced by khaki and that sick metallic, greasy smell is all it takes.

You might come visit for a weekend at a time and never see the dust. You might never get the feeling in running your fingers through your hair that they come away coated in talcum and static electricity. You might never find yourself wondering if that trip to the grocery store might cost you a day’s work in lung spasms.

Stay here for more than a couple weeks and you will know the feeling.

Dust was in court last week, or at least dust’s advocates at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) were in court, hearing their lawsuit against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District get thrown out on a technicality. LADWP is concerned that taking action to keep alkaline dust from blowing off the Owens Lake bed, which it dried out by stages over the last century, would be — in words LADWP uses over and over again — ” “a waste of water.”

Read more: KCET


DWP seeks truce in water wars as L.A. Aqueduct nears 100

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“The region’s economy and wildlife have struggled in a stunning landscape of snowcapped peaks, cascading streams and sage plains dotted with alfalfa fields and cattle ranches, and flanked by lava flows and dormant volcanoes. At dry Owens Lake, the focus of an agonizingly complex and expensive effort to control dust storms, dust pollution frequently exceeds federal health standards. Some locals have expressed their feelings toward the DWP by urinating in the aqueduct while reciting, “L.A. needs the water.”

These days, many Owens Valley residents are happy about the DWP’s newly conciliatory attitude, even if they wonder why it is coming now instead of much earlier. “The obvious question to ask is, ‘Why couldn’t it have been resolved years ago?’ ” said Geoff Pope, chairman of the board of the 40 Acres Homeowners Water Assn.

The DWP insists publicly that the three settlements have nothing to do with the anniversary festivities. “It’s serendipity,” DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said. “The important thing is to show that the DWP will work with reasonable people to find solutions that work for both sides.”

The standoff at 40 Acres, where the DWP and residents own property and water rights, began in 2001, when the utility constructed the diversion gate controlled with a wheel the size of a dinner plate.

The structure gave DWP control of the water, replacing a wooden diversion gate that locals had installed at a fork in the creek in the mid-1970s. It diverted water into a latticework of ditches, which disperses it through their little patch of cottonwoods, modest homes and pastures.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times


Groundwater Quality in the Owens Valley, California

“The Owens study area is approximately 1,030 square miles (2,668 square kilometers) and includes the Owens Valley groundwater basin (California Department of Water Resources, 2003). Owens Valley has a semiarid to arid climate, with average annual rainfall of about 6 inches (15 centimeters). The study area has internal drainage, with runoff primarily from the Sierra Nevada draining east to the Owens River, which flows south to Owens Lake dry lakebed at the southern end of the valley. Beginning in the early 1900s, the City of Los Angeles began diverting the flow of the Owens River to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, resulting in the evaporation of Owens Lake and the formation of the current Owens Lake dry lakebed. Land use in the study area is approximately 94 percent (%) natural, 5% agricultural, and 1% urban. The primary natural land cover is shrubland. The largest urban area is the city of Bishop (2010 population of 4,000).

Groundwater in this basin is used for public and domestic water supply and for irrigation. The main water-bearing units are gravel, sand, silt, and clay derived from surrounding mountains. Recharge to the groundwater system is primarily runoff from the Sierra Nevada, and by direct infiltration of irrigation. The primary sources of discharge are pumping wells, evapotranspiration, and underflow to the Owens Lake dry lakebed. The primary aquifers in Owens Valley are defined as those parts of the aquifers corresponding to the perforated intervals of wells listed in the California Department of Public Health database. Public-supply wells in Owens Valley are completed to depths between 210 and 480 feet (64 to 146 meters), consist of solid casing from the land surface to a depth of 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24 meters), and are screened or perforated below the solid casing.”

Read more: USGS


California air board says DWP must control dry lake bed’s dust

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“The California Air Resources Board has ruled that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is solely responsible for controlling the choking dust storms that arise from the dry Owens Lake bed.

The board said the DWP must take additional air pollution control measures on 2.9 square miles of the dry lake, which was drained to provide water to Los Angeles. The powder-fine dust arising from the bed often exceeds federal health standards.

The DWP argues that it has already reduced dust pollution 90% at a cost to ratepayers of $1.2 billion. The additional measures will cost an estimated $400 million, the utility said.

The board’s decision Monday aligns with the findings of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, which had called for the added measures. “It’s a complete victory,” said Ted Schade, chief enforcement officer for the district.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times


L.A. Blasts California in Owens Lake Water War

Photo retrieved from: www.courthousenews.com

“Los Angeles’ water wars continue, with the city suing the state in Superior Court, claiming that the state’s demand for dust abatement at Owens Lake could cost taxpayers $1.5 billion.
The City of Los Angeles challenges the validity of Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s dust pollution control program, under a section of the Health and Safety Code.
Los Angeles claims the program could cost $1.5 billion – “the most expensive dust control program in the entire nation, and likely the world.”
Los Angeles began draining Owens Lake, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, in 1913, sending its water into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Many people know of the tremendous power struggle over the water through the Jack Nicholson movie, “Chinatown.” Residents of Inyo County claimed, reasonably, that Los Angeles was stealing its water for the insatiable needs of the city. Owens Lake once covered 108 square miles and was up to 50 feet deep. Today much of the old lake bed is a mud and salt flat, whose alkaline dust is stuffed up by dust storms that carry away as much as 4 million tons of dust and dirt from the lakebed each year. The lake itself, much shallower than it was, covers no more than 27 square miles today.
Los Angeles sued the State Air Resources Board, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, and the state itself, through the California Lands Commission.
The city asks the Superior Court to order the State Air Resources Board to conduct an independent hearing to review Great Basin’s 2011 Supplemental Control Requirements Decision.”

Read more: Courthouse News Service